Israel denies agreeing to ceasefire in Gaza, notifies families of 199 captives

Oct 16, 2023 4:19 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

Israel has denied reports indicating that it has agreed to a ceasefire in the southern Gaza Strip, which would have allowed the Rafah crossing to open for humanitarian aid and the exit of foreigners. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a brief statement asserting, “At the moment there is no ceasefire for humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and the exit of foreigners.”

Earlier, the Reuters news agency had reported that Israel had agreed to a ceasefire starting at 9 a.m., in cooperation with Egypt and the United States.

Israel had initiated a military operation against the Hamas terror group following incursions by gunmen from Gaza on October 7, resulting in the deaths of over 1,300 people in Israel, predominantly civilians. The Israeli military had also notified the families of 199 individuals who had been kidnapped and taken to Gaza, including civilians of all ages.

In response to the attacks, Israel had launched an extensive bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, with plans for a ground operation aimed at eliminating Hamas. This led to a directive for more than one million Palestinians, nearly half of the Strip’s population, to relocate from the north to the south of the enclave.

Some members of Israel’s Likud party expressed strong opposition to the reported temporary truce brokered by the United States. Energy Minister Israel Katz opposed the opening of the blockade and the introduction of humanitarian goods into Gaza, while Culture Minister Miki Zohar emphasized that those responsible for violence against civilians did not deserve any mercy.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had established a safe corridor for civilians to move from the north to the south of Gaza between 8 a.m. and noon for three consecutive days, resulting in over 600,000 evacuations from the Gaza City area. The IDF maintained its warning to residents in northern Gaza regarding the impending bombings, but Hamas urged people to stay in their homes.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the IDF’s top spokesman, noted that Hamas continued to prevent Palestinians from evacuating the northern part of the Gaza Strip, despite the IDF’s warning of heavy bombing.

As supplies in the enclave diminished, Israel announced the resumption of water supply to the southern portion of the Gaza Strip. This decision was reached through an agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden with the aim of encouraging the civilian population to relocate to the southern part of the Strip.

Israel had amassed forces outside Gaza in preparation for a comprehensive military operation involving land, air, and sea elements, including a significant ground operation. The Gaza Health Ministry, under Hamas control, reported a significant number of casualties among Palestinians as a result of Israeli retaliatory bombardments. However, it remained unclear how many were killed due to misfired rockets in the Strip.

U.S. President Joe Biden emphasized the necessity of addressing extremist elements but cautioned against a full-scale Israeli occupation of Gaza. Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, both supporters of Hamas, warned that an invasion of Gaza would elicit a response. The U.S. deployed two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent. There are reports that Biden may visit Israel on a solidarity mission after he canceled a visit to Colorado.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed concerns about the situation’s control and possible escalation if Israel sent its soldiers into Gaza. Simultaneously, tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border intensified, leading to evacuations of civilians from areas near the northern and southern borders of Israel. The ongoing fighting also resulted in tens of thousands of internally displaced Israelis.